Comparing Before-and-After Photos

Before-and-after photo galleries are an excellent tool to get an idea of what results may be after an operation. Here are some tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of your investigation.

Why Should Photos Be Standardized?

Photos from your surgeon should be taken the same way each time. This shows thought and organization. Since photos are an important way for a surgeon to self-evaluate, before-and-after pictures should not be taken carelessly. Some signs that your surgeon is on the ball:

  • The same background is present on each photo
  • Distracting clothing, furniture, patient gowns absent from the photo
  • Photos show the whole area addressed by the operation

What Other Things Should I Look For?

Certain tricks can be used to make results seem better than they are. Be on the lookout for these signs that the outcome may not be realistic:

  • Significant differences in lighting, camera zoom, and setting. If the preoperative photo looks drab and dull and the after photo looks warm and exciting, this may be an emotional promise instead of a likely result.
  • For facial procedures, a significant change in makeup or hairstyle may make a patient look great, but that is not a result of surgery. Focus on the specific procedure that the patient had to see the actual results. 
  • In addition, often multiple procedures are performed at once on the face. Double check with the surgeon that what you are looking for can be delivered with the planned operation.

Applying The Results

The goal of viewing before and after photos is to see what the results might be for you. Here are some tips:

  • Look for patients similar to you. Different bodies show different results after surgery, and a patient who is similar in build or age may have closer results to yourself than someone who is a different size, age, etc. This especially is true for body contouring procedures, such as a tummy tuck, where varying amounts of extra skin and fatty tissue will produce different degrees of improvement. Breast augmentation is another operation where differences in breast shape, amount of drooping, and asymmetry may have significant effects on the final outcome.
  • Look at scar quality and location. Scarring should be well-placed–able to be hidden under normal clothing–and should not be overly wide. Scars that are pink are still maturing–once this process is done scars should be pale and blend in with surrounding skin. (Because all operations produce some degree of scarring, the lack of visible scarring in pictures likely indicates that it is being hidden by undergarments.)
  • Check for symmetry. No paired structures in our bodies are perfectly symmetric, from our ears on down. However, symmetry should be improved after surgery, not worsened.
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